There are probably four, maybe five, artists whose recordings I eagerly await, and in that small but stellar group is the Tony and Olivier Award winning actress and singer Patti LuPone. From the moment I heard LuPone wrap her golden vocal chords around Andrew Lloyd Webber's score to Evita, I knew this was one of the unique voices of our time -- a voice with a huge belting range, capable of soaring to the rafters of any theatre as well as tugging at your heartstrings with softer, shaded tones. But what really separates LuPone from many singers is the actress that takes over when she interprets a lyric, whether it's a signature tune like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" or "Meadowlark" or a gorgeous pairing of pop tunes like "Calling You" or "Get Here." So, it is a bit surprising that LuPone did not release a solo album until 1993, "Patti LuPone Live," a recording of her thrilling Los Angeles concert, which she repeated on Broadway to rave reviews. Fans (this one included) had to content themselves with her wonderful work on such show recordings as The Baker's Wife, Evita, Anything Goes, Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard, which was released the same year as the aforementioned "Patti LuPone Live."
Thankfully, however, La LuPone seems to be making up for a late start. She quickly followed her debut solo recording with a tribute to the songs of Irving Berlin, entitled "Heatwave" and boasting John Mauceri conducting The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. And, now, I've very happy to report, LuPone's third solo disc, "Matters of the Heart," will be released on Sept. 21 on the Varèse Sarabande label. "Matters of the Heart" features the songs that compose her latest cabaret act, an act she has performed to great acclaim in both Australia and the U.S., and one that she will take to London's Donmar Warehouse next month and New York some time next season.
I was recently sent a sampler of the recording that includes five tracks from the upcoming CD. The sampler opens with a lushly-orchestrated version of Frank Wildhorn's "Storybook," with LuPone -- who is in great voice -- singing that song's opening stanzas. From there she slides into a lilting, uplifting version of "Love Makes the World Go 'Round." The second track on the sampler is a medley of Lennon and McCartney's "It's For You" and South Pacific's "A Wonderful Guy," and the segue between the two songs is joyful, especially exciting as LuPone begins the familiar "I'm as corny as Kansas in August. . ." She also builds the song to a climactic finale, belting, "I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love with a wonderful guy!" A contemplative take on Jimmy Webb's "Where Love Resides" follows. One of the cabaret world's finest young composers, John Bucchino, is represented on the sampler by a tune entitled "Unexpressed," which LuPone mines for all its dramatic value. The sampler concludes with an uplifting "Hello, Young Lovers" from another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, The King and I.
I was also sent a copy of the liner notes for the album, which includes a lengthy, personal note from LuPone that I thought you would enjoy reading. Says LuPone:
"I've never had a specific preference for anything. I don't have a favorite food or color. I don't have a favorite part. I do have wanderlust with passion. With that same passion, I will blow with the prevailing winds, revelling in wherever they deposit me. The same is true with my taste in music.
I grew up on Long Island. Music was always playing in my house. Either coming off the record player or coming out on the radio. Mom and Dad DID have specific tastes. She, Opera -- He, Jazz. She, Kate Smith -- He, Victory at Sea. Somehow in my collection of records, there are Renata Tebaldi albums (my profound apologies to Maria Callas fans). Music was simply everywhere and I loved it all. Big Bands, Big Orchestras, Big Voices. Little people playing Big Harmonicas.
All great songs are the marriage of lyric and note. We never ask why that lyric sits on that note, and the correct combination always delivers chills, tears, awe. Emotional fulfillment.
Scott, Dick and I began collaboration on 'Matters of the Heart' Tuesday nights after my performance in The Old Neighborhood written by a friend and mentor of a different kind of lyric and music, David Mamet. Scott, Dick and I had no idea what would emerge from these sessions. I did know I would not sing Broadway show tunes, which I suppose I am known for. I wanted to sing original and contemporary songs with stories. When I got my own radio and turntable, the music blasting forth was written by the Rock 'N' Roll storytellers -- Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, The Beatles and being proudly from Long Island, Billy Joel. That's where I wanted to start. We brought songs new and old to each session and what you hear is what gave us all that emotional rush.
Those sessions in Scott's loft left me feeling creatively whole. The theme 'Matters of the Heart' evolved organically. Because of the thrill we experienced hearing the songs. The lyric-perfect note...the note-perfect story.
As a Director, Scott Wittman's power lies in his ability to weave together a show of seemingly unconnected songs through surprise, his canny wisdom and his vast sense of humor. Dick Gallagher is deadly quiet and brilliantly talented. I cannot imagine doing a show without them. I hope I never have to. A dear friend from the Anything Goes days, John Weidman wrote the graceful and funny words which became the glue for the show and helped me to take the audience through it.
Music has always been a part of my life even before I really knew what my life would be.
Quite happily I became a Wife, Mother, Chicken Farmer, Actor, Musician. Music is never far from my home, my car, my mind, my heart. If, indeed, "music be the food of love," I am fat and happy.
The complete track listing for "Matters of the Heart" follows:
"Storybook"/"Love Makes the World Go 'Round" Nan Knighton and Frank Wildhorn/Bob Merrill
"A Cock-eyed Optimist" Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
"The Boy Next Door" Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane
"It's for You"/ "A Wonderful Guy" John Lennon and Paul McCartney/Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
"Where Love Resides" Jimmy Webb
"Shattered Illusions" Dillie Keane
"Unexpressed" John Bucchino
"Not a Day Goes By" Stephen Sondheim
"Playbill" John Bucchino
"Air That I Breathe" Albert Hammond and Michael Hazelwood
"Sand and Water" Beth Nielson Chapman
"When the World Was Young"/ "I Never Do Anything Twice" M. Philippe Gerard, Johnny Mercer/Stephen Sondheim
"I Regret Everything" Bill Burnett and Peggy Sarlin
"This Moment" John Bucchino
"Real Emotional Girl" Randy Newman
"My Father" / "Look Mummy, No Hands" Judy Collins/Dillie Keane & Adele Anderson
"My Son" Rupert Holmes
"Back to Before" Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
"Hello, Young Lovers" Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
"My Best To You" Gene Willadsen and Isham Jones
DIVAS ON BRAVO
During the first week of November, TV's Bravo Channel will celebrate Broadway with a seven-day series entitled "Broadway on Bravo." Most exciting to this diva fan is the airing of "Bravo Profiles: Betty Buckley," an insightful documentary that includes an interview with the Tony Award-winning actress as well as remarks from actors F. Murray Abraham and Ellen Burstyn, producers Rodger Hess and Kevin Duncan and writers Peter Stone and Stephen Schwartz. Footage from Buckley's recent sold-out Bottom Line concert -- featuring such Buckley standards as "Memory" and "With One Look" -- is also included. The program about Ms. B will air Nov. 1 at 10 PM.
On Nov. 2 Bravo will premiere "Mr. & Mrs. Broadway," a look at one of the theatre's most respected couples, producer Robert Whitehead and the much-heralded Master Class actress, Zoe Caldwell. On Thursday, Nov. 4 Bravo will present Moon Over Broadway, an enjoyable, fast-paced documentary by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. The often hilarious work features behind-the-scenes footage of the making of Moon Over Buffalo, Ken Ludwig's comedy that starred Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco. Other programs featured during the week include the first-time airing on Bravo of three films: Glengarry Glen Ross, [The Who's] Tommy and Agnes of God.
And, Elaine Paige fans will be happy to learn that Bravo will rebroadcast its one-hour version of her career profile on Nov. 4 at 10 PM.
Set those VCRs in November!
IN OTHER NEWS: THE WOMEN Sally Mayes goes into the recording studio this Monday, July 26 to record a new album for Varèse Sarabande. Entitled "Storyhour," the CD will include the Carpenters' "Superstar," Frank Loesser's "Hamlet," and several other tunes, even one by rock legend Bruce Springsteen. If you are interested in attending one of the two recording sessions -- at 1 PM or 5 PM -- leave a message for Jonathan Stanczyk at (914) 499-6047; many seats are still available. . . Karen Mason's Christmas album, which should be available this fall (just in time for the holiday season) is now nearing completion. Her new husband (and record producer/songwriter), Paul Rolnick, is doing the final mixing, and the CD is simply titled "Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" Also, the busy chanteuse will again join Greg (City of Angels, 1776) Edelman for a European tour of Broadway music that will play Stockholm (Sept. 1-4); Birmingham, England (Sept. 5); and the Barbican in London (Sept. 8). . . Liz Callaway, who has left her role as Broadway's Grizabella to Sunset alum Linda Balgord, is in the process of selecting a concept and songs for her third solo album. Produced by Bruce Kimmel, the recording sessions should begin soon. Liz and her cabaret-singing sister Ann Hampton Callaway were recently featured in a 20-minute segment on "Artbeat Chicago." For those who have RealVideo, you can view this segment by going to http://220.127.116.11:8080/ramgen/realvideo/wttw2.rm . . . The web address for the new Alice Ripley site is www.officialaliceripley.com . . . Cabaret singer Julie Nemitz will bring her latest act, Beyond the Blue to Don't Tell Mama (343 W. 46th Street) in August (Aug. 11, 18, 25 and 31). Nemitz's new show will include songs by such Broadway composers as Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Parade's Jason Robert Brown. There is a $12 cover and two-drink minimum; call (212) 757-0788 for reservations.
IN OTHER NEWS: THE MEN I rarely write about male performers, but since there are a few noteworthy events/recordings to report, I thought I would make an exception this week. In August two of cabaret's finest singers will perform in the New York City area. Tom Andersen, the 1999 Mac Award Winner for Outstanding Male Vocalist, will bring his latest collection of songs to the FireBird Cafe on Fridays, Aug. 6 and 13 (at 9 p.m.) and Saturdays, Aug. 7 and 14 (at 9 and 11 PM). The FireBird Cafe is located at 365 West 46th Street, and reservations ($15 cover, $15 food-drink minimum) may be made by calling (212) 586-0244 . . . From Monday, Aug. 16 through Thursday, August 19, cabaret singer and record producer Lee Lessack will be part of "Three Men and a Baby Grand," his MAC-nominated Best Revue that also features the vocals of Brian Lane Green and John Boswell. The threesome will perform at the newly located Judy's at 169 Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. Tickets are priced at $15; for reservations call (212) 929-5410. For those in the Philadelphia area, the trio will perform their show at Odette's (South River Road, New Hope, PA) on Saturday, August 14 and Sunday, August 15. Call (215) 862-3000 . . . There are also new recordings of note from two of Broadway's finest voices, Brent Barrett and Sean McDermott. On Barrett's debut solo album, "The Kander and Ebb Album," the current Chicago star lends his rich baritone to works both old and new of John Kander and Fred Ebb. The CD includes songs from such works as Cabaret ("Why Should I Wake Up" and "Married"), Kiss of the Spider Woman ("Give Me Love"), Zorba ("Life Is"), Woman of the Year ("Sometimes a Day Goes By"), Steel Pier ("Wet" and "Second Chance"), Chicago ("All That Jazz" and "All I Care About Is Love"), The Happy Time ("Seeing Things"), The Rink ("Marry Me"), Funny Lady ("Isn't This Better"). It also includes two premiere recordings: Over and Over's "The Skin of Our Teeth" and "No, My Heart" from Hay Fever. An added bonus is the appearances of two theatre ladies, Ruthie Henshall and Jane Krakowski, who duet with Barrett on Cabaret's "Who Should I Wake Up?" and Steel Pier's "Wet," respectively. The CD is available from Varèse Sarabande . . .Sean McDermott recently raised the roof at Joe's Pub during his one-night only concert; in fact, in a Back Stage cabaret column, critic John Hoglund wrote: "Broadway power-belter Sean McDermott electrified the stage, performing with the energy of ball lightning from his opening to his encore. The dazzling show, brilliantly directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, had McDermott's soaring tenor rocking the rafters and the SRO audience screaming for more. This is a voice and performer to be reckoned with." Until McDermott's next performance, fans may want to pick up his new CD, "Sean McDermott: My Broadway" (Jay Records). The star of Miss Saigon and Falsettos covers a host of Broadway favorites winningly: "Why God Why?," "What Would I Do?," "Love Can't Happen," "One Song Glory," "Tell My Father," "This Is the Moment" and ten others.
Next week: More Betty Buckley concert dates for the year 2000!
REMINDERS BETTY BUCKLEY
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.
July 27 Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
May 4, 2000 Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday.
On September 25 Mason will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
Through the end of the month, McGovern will appear in a production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Sundance Summer Theatre in Sundance, Utah. Other concert dates follow:
August 14 Maureen McGovern and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (100th Anniversary Salute: The Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove, NJ
August 19-20 Midway Stage at 1776: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
August 23 SCERA Amphitheater: Orem , Utah
August 24 Kenley Centennial Amphitheater: Layton, Utah
September 5-6 Jerry Lewis Telethon (check local listings)
Bernadette Peters in Concert, the thrilling performance taped live in London, will begin airing on PBS stations around the country on Aug. 7. The two-time Tony winning star of Annie Get Your Gun will also host the first presentation of Broadway Barks!, a star-studded cat and dog adoption event to be held at Shubert Alley on Saturday, July 24 from 5 PM to 7 PM. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the FIDO/NYC fund, and the evening is made possible with the support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For further information, call (212) 227-BARK!
DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from Aug. 9 through Aug. 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from Aug. 23 to Aug. 28, and Sam Brown will open on Aug. 31 and close Sept. 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8 PM with matinees on Saturday at 4 PM. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!